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How should we respond to claims that the mRNA vaccines could cause a genetic change and that we will see this in the coming decades?

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12/9/2021

The mRNA vaccine is injected into human cells, which then churn out copies of the virus’s spike protein. This triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

The RNA based vaccines are safe: to produce them involves making genetic material only, not the virus. They teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. The mRNA of the vaccine cannot interfere with the human genetic system, a concern which has been raised by some. This is because humans do not have a mechanism to convert the RNA back into DNA. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.

The fast and highly scalable mRNA manufacturing process enables rapid production of many vaccine doses, making it suitable for rapid vaccine development and pandemic vaccine supply.

mRNA is a new platform for vaccines but there is no reason why it should be any less safe than any of the other platforms. There are reasons, theoretically, why it could be safer than other existing platforms, for example, compared to vaccines using attenuated viruses (as there is no risk of the attenuated pathogen reverting to a dangerous form) or viral proteins (as there is no addition of adjuvants/immunostimulants, which can sometimes denature the viral proteins).

mRNA-based vaccines:

  • teach our cells how to make a part of a protein
  • the cell gets rid of the mRNA soon after
  • cannot interfere with the human genetic system
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